Do they just die?
Immigrants cleaned this up
The abandoned heroes
Daily News Exclusive
Ground Zero's illegals find few places to turn for care
By PAUL H.B. SHIN
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
It has become an unspoken shame of Ground Zero.
Thousands of undocumented immigrants who toiled amid toxic dust to clean buildings around the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks are suffering from serious health problems - but have few places to turn for treatment, concerned doctors and advocates said.
The only free medical care for these workers - a modest, privately funded program at Bellevue Hospital - may lose its financial benefactor a year from now unless the government steps in.
The workers who played a pivotal role in reopening the nation's financial hub within days of the attacks said they feel abandoned, especially as anti-immigrant sentiments are stoked in Washington.
"When we were needed on 9/11, no one asked for our papers. Now they don't want us here anymore," said Lucelly Gil, 50, who worked in the disaster zone for months, wearing only a flimsy dust mask and plastic gloves for protection.
A Daily News investigation documented the exploitation of the undocumented workers just a few months after the attacks. The January 2002 exclusive revealed that contractors had been plucking illegal immigrants off streetcorners and putting them to work without giving them safety training or protective equipment.
"All of us who worked in the disaster zone worked because we wanted to help the city," said Alberto Melo, 47, one of the day laborers.
Melo and Gil are suffering from ailments ranging from severe respiratory problems to depression - symptoms also plaguing hundreds of firefighters, cops and other first responders who worked in or near the smoldering pit.
Spurred by a recent series of editorials by The News, Gov. Pataki signed three laws last month aimed at covering the health costs of 9/11 responders. But the benefits won't be extended to undocumented workers.
"The only thing that mattered to the contractors was that we work quickly," Melo said, noting his boss would drop in for brief visits to the work sites wearing a heavy-duty protective mask equipped with canister filters.
Please explain why these people don't need our help.
posted by Steve @ 1:04:00 PM